How a Palestinian Terrorist Group Uses “Civil-Society” Organizations to Raise, and to Launder, Money

On October 9, the Israeli government formally designated six Palestinian charities as terrorist groups due to their support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—a move that met with predictable condemnations from the UN, the State Department, and self-styled human-rights groups. Since at least 2011, multiple PFLP operatives have been hired by the designated charities. Matthew Levitt assesses the evidence that these organizations act as fronts for the PFLP, which even the EU considers a terrorist group. Between 2011 and 2019, the PFLP murdered at least six people, in addition to countless foiled attacks:

Then, on August 23, 2019, PFLP operatives planned and detonated a bomb at a popular West Bank hiking spot, killing seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounding her father and brother. Two of the PFLP terrorists involved in this attack—one of them, Samer Arbid, charged with recruiting cell members and personally detonating the explosive—were employed by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, one of the recently designated NGOs.

Among the arrested PFLP operatives [after the attack] was Walid Muhammad Hanatsheh, a finance and administration manager for the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), another PFLP-affiliated NGO. . . . Pulling at the threads of the two NGOs directly tied to PFLP operatives involved in Shnerb’s murder, . . . Israeli authorities began mapping out what they ultimately determined was a network of front organizations providing funds for the PFLP, day jobs and legitimacy for its operatives, and space for secure meetings.

Then, in March 2021, Israeli authorities raided the UHWC headquarters in al-Bireh, searched the premises, and seized files and computers, while also detaining three office employees. In early May 2021, Israel arrested four people affiliated with the UHWC. . . . The defendants were charged with activity in a proscribed organization, conducting illicit money transfers, and fraud, and accused of defrauding European donors by manipulating records to cover funds “in the eight figures” diverted from the NGO to the PFLP. Together, investigators said, the four “duped European donors using financial records doctored to hide cash diversions” to the PFLP.

[I]n a statement to Israeli police, one of the arrested UHWC employees explained that “the PFLP-affiliated institutions are interconnected and serve as the organization’s lifeline financially and organizationally, i.e., money laundering and financing PFLP activity.”

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: NGO, Palestinian terror, PFLP

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia